Coming off a disappointing 2012-2013 season, where the Georgia Southern University men’s basketball team went 14-19, a new era begins as the team embarks on its final season in the Southern Conference.
The Eagles kick off the season tomorrow night, and it will be the first under new head coach Mark Byington.
Byington is hopeful, and expects his team to progressively get better throughout the season.
“I think we have a high ceiling, but the point we’re at now isn’t where we’re going to be in January and February,” Byington said. “Everyone’s new to our system, and we brought in a lot of guys who are new to college basketball.”
Byington is proud of his players’ willingness to work hard in the classroom and on the court.
“The players have been great,” Byington said. “Everyone’s one hundred percent bought into what we’re trying to do ever since my first day on the job. They’ve been committed to doing the right things on and off the floor, and I’m especially proud of how they’ve responded academically.”
The Eagles will be looking to their leadership for their on-court success. Byington has named redshirt junior Jelani Hewitt, senior guard Tre Bussey and senior forward Marvin Baynham as captains for the 2013-2014 season.
“Our captains should have real big seasons,” Byington said. “Jelani Hewitt has really matured as a player, Trey Bussey, who is really hard to guard because of his quickness and ball handling, and Marvin Baynham, who always gives an honest effort and [he’s] a real tough guy.”
“If we can get him healthy, [senior guard] Brian Holmes can take this team to a whole new level,” Byington said.
The Eagles’ schedule will not be any easier this season, with traditional SoCon powerhouse Davidson College and a non-conference schedule highlighted by the likes of West Virginia University, University of Alabama-Birmingham and the University of Miami, which is fresh off an elite eight berth.
“It’s a challenging schedule,” Byington said. “I like to use non-conference play to prepare us for conference play. I think we’ll be able to do that effectively this year.”
“We’re going to play an aggressive, physical team in West Virginia, a great zone team in Georgia State and UAB’s got a lot of athleticism and a pressure defense,” Byington said. “All those teams will be mirror images of the teams in our conference, so we can take a look at what’s worked and apply it to those games.”
In his inaugural season, Byington does not have a long-term goal for this season and he wants to pace himself as the season progresses.
“We’re going to worry about the day and the moment,” Byington said. “We emphasize the process of doing things right and getting better every day. Keep doing that, and that will lead to wins and championships. We’ll do the same thing the first game that we’ll do game thirty-two. We’re going to practice the right way, play hard and execute our game plan.”
The Eagles will face off with Thomas University in an exhibition match in Hanner Fieldhouse tomorrow at 7 p.m.